What To Expect In The Years Leading Up To Menopause
Many women don't know what to expect as they grow closer to menopause. Yes, they may hear an older woman talk about hot flashes occasionally or the accompanying mood swings common with menopause, but their own mothers or aunts may have nothing to offer. This is often because many women have a hysterectomy, which changes their experiences. Here is a basic primer on what to expect.
Menopause Doesn't Happen Overnight
Just as puberty starting your transition into your childbearing years took a decade or more so does your transition out. Several years before you have your final monthly menstrual cycle, your hormone levels will begin declining. Your eggs, which you were born with, with also begin running low and dying off. This period leading up to the last period is called perimenopause. It begins for most women in her early to mid-forties and lasts several years.
What Symptoms Are Common During Perimenopause?
In addition to hot flashes and mood swings, women may experience increased breast tenderness. Her breasts may also drop considerably. Insomnia and other sleep difficulties may occur. If her life is stressful, her sleep may be frequently interrupted by nightmares or fits of restlessness. This can cause debilitating fatigue for some women, which can make everyday life much more difficult.
A woman who has premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may find her symptoms are worse. The periods may become irregular, and rather than becoming lighter or easier to deal with, she may experience more frequent or heavy bleeding, sometimes with large clots. She may also suffer severe menstrual cramps.
It's not uncommon for a woman's sex drive to begin waning during this time, which may cause problems in her relationship. Vaginal dryness may also make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. Additionally, the perimenopausal woman may suffer urinary stress incontinence from sneezing, coughing, or exercising as well as urinary urgency.
How Does A Woman Know What's Normal And What's Abnormal During Perimenopuase?
With so many vague symptoms, it can be difficult to discern what is par for the course or something to be more concerned about. Regular checkups with a womens' health care services provider can allay these fears.
Bleeding that is extremely heavy or painful may be a sign of endometriosis or adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is a condition where the lining of the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, works its way into the muscle wall while endometriosis is where the endometrial cells escape the uterus and adhere to other organs in the abdominal cavity. Adenomyosis can be treated with a hormonal IUD as it goes away at menopause, but endometriosis may require a hysterectomy.